The Q&A Archives: Proper Drainage for Container Peppers

Question: I live in San Antonio, Texas, and have a good number of peppers of all varieties planted in terra cotta pots. I have tried using pans underneath the pot, but water tends to stand too long, and the peppers get root rot. I have tried no pans, but the plants dry out too quickly and the roots heat up too much. How do I get the proper drainage, but maintain the soil moisture?

Answer: Here are a few things you can try: Use plastic or glazed terra cotta, which will hold moisture longer; paint the terra cotta pots white so they'll reflect light/heat; mulch the soil surface to moderate soil temperature and moisture; experiment with different soil mixtures, e.g. coconut fiber (available in block form from Gardener's Supply Co.,, ph# 800/863-1700) and perlite mixed with potting soil, or try Burpee's Terra Sorb polymer crystals, which hold moisture in the soil until the plant needs it. I hope some combination of these tips is helpful. Good luck!

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